Statement: Why we need an inquiry into violence against people with disabilities.
The ABC Four Corners program â€œIn Our Careâ€ has generated significant media and community response. Women with Disabilities Victoria takes the following position regarding violence against women with disabilities in disability services.
Women with disabilities are strong.
Much of the conversation about abuse of women with disabilities has centred on our vulnerability. This so called â€˜vulnerabilityâ€™ is not a characteristic of being a woman with a disability. To the contrary, Jules Anderson and Milly Parker demonstrated their strength and resilience when speaking about their experiences leading up to and during their interviews with 4 Corners.
Our 'vulnerability' comes from broader community attitudes that degrade people with disabilities and degrade women. Gender inequality is reflected in sexist jokes and sexual harassment, as well as the appallingly low levels of women in senior management. Gender inequality has been found to be the fundamental driver of violence against women.
Discrimination against people with disabilities is reflected in low levels of employment, bullying at school, ableist jokes and stereotypical representations in the media. This discrimination leaves us seriously disadvantaged socially, politically and economically.
Community attitudes empower perpetrators.
Gender-based violence and disability-based violence combine to significantly increase the risk of perpetrators targeting women with disabilities. These social conditions allow perpetrators to use violence against women disabilities with impunity. The issues raised in the Fairfax/ABC investigation highlight the prevalence of violence in the lives of women with disabilities. Our research project, Voices Against Violence, indicates that perpetrators believe they can get away with it, and women fear they won't be believed if they report assault. Sadly, in many instances, both of these assumptions are correct.
Prevention of violence is needed.
Women with Disabilities Victoria has focused on approaches to prevention that address both gender inequality and disability discrimination. Women with Disabilities Victoriaâ€™s pilot violence prevention training program involves women with disabilities co-facilitating groups of disability service staff. The women work alongside trainers with experience in violence prevention and response.
A strength of this training is that it builds relationships between disability services and womenâ€™s services who have expertise in responding to violence. This is exactly what is needed across services and government departments. Only with leadership in this direction can we really address violence against women with disabilities.
Government must take leadership.
It would be a mistake to think we can address this issue by investigating the events of one organization. Violence against women with disabilities is present across disability, aged care, mental health and other health services. This issue must be recognised as a major community concern, requiring leadership and coordination by government. As Senator Rachel Siewart stated in the Australian parliament yesterday, to think that the issues are only limited to Victoria would be a grave mistake.
Women with Disabilities Victoria supports the calls for inquiries into violence in settings where disability services are delivered, at both a state and national level. We are heartened by the responses of all Victorian political parties. We endorse the call by Women With Disabilities Australia and the former Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, that the Australian Government undertake an inquiry. This inquiry is of critical importance to ensure our right to safety in the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Contact for Women with Disabilities Victoria:
Jen Hargrave, Policy Officer, Violence against women with disabilities
Contacts for People who have experienced sexual assault:
Sexual Assault Crisis Line (24 hour)
Phone: 1800 806 292
Men concerned about their behaviour at home:
Menâ€™s Referral Service
Phone: 1300 766 491